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Eastern approaches

4.6 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding
  • ASIN: B0014LU9ZU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
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Format: Paperback
In one breathtaking, breathless volume Fitzroy Maclean tells of his career as diplomat and soldier from 1937-45.
The first part of the book deals with his diplomatic career in the USSR. Maclean quickly tires of the endless cycle of diplomatic receptions and the restrictions upon travel, and decides to see more of the USSR, particularly the Central Asian republics that were still being assimilated into the Union. He sets off on a series of enlightening journeys (with little or no official approval!) that take him far from Moscow to the legendary cities of Samarkand and Bokhara. This is fine travel writing indeed, Maclean giving a very powerful sense of what the Stalinist era was like and also of the exoticism of Central Asia. There are also powerful descriptions of the Stalist purges of 1938 and the accompanying "show trials".
The second part of the book covers Maclean's exploits with the SAS in the North African deserts and the Middle East. Resigning from his diplomatic post to join the Army (using the convenient excuse of becoming an MP!) Maclean serves as a private in a Scottish regiment for some time before being commmissioned and sent to the Middle East. Here he falls in with David Stirling and becomes an early member of the SAS - his stories of their training, tactics and raids are powerful indeed, matched by evocative descriptions of the African landscapes. Maclean moves on to form SAS units in the Middle East, but before long is summoned to go behind enemy lines as Churchill's military representative to Tito's Yugoslav partisans.
The final third of the book mixes military action and politics, with Maclean organising the support for the Partisans and representing them to the Allies.
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Format: Paperback
These are the memoirs of the early years of Sir Fitzroy Maclean, diplomat, soldier and politician. An extraordinary account of the formative years of an exceptionally gifted young man. Maclean's memoirs are roughly divided into three sections. The first deals with his time in Moscow before the war; the second with his experiences in the Second World War in north Africa; and the third recounts the time he spent in Yugoslavia towards the end of the war as Churchill's personal envoy to Tito.
Maclean was stationed in Moscow at a time when the embassy staff there was still quite small. Black tie dinners and frequent hob-nobbing with diplomats from other legations. As someone who has been to Russia ten times in the last fifteen years, the accuracy of his observations astounded me. It may read as exaggeration, but his tales of drunken train journeys, the smell of BO and cabbage in the tube; the depressingly morose looks of Russians in the street conflicting strongly with their demeanour when behind closed doors; the stifling influence of the security forces and Soviet bureaucracy; all these still ring true today. Most of the space devoted to the time he spent in the Soviet Union does not deal, however, with Moscow (with the notable exception of the last and biggest show trial of the Stalin era), but those regions further south. Whether he went there as a spy or whether we are to believe him when he says that he went there as a tourist, out of plain curiosity, Fitzroy was one of the first Europeans to venture so far south in one hundred years. He captures the sights, sounds and smells of Kazakhstan, Uzbekhistan and Afghanistan amazingly well. How easy to recognize Boukhara and Samarkand, Almaty and the Kush in his wonderfully descriptive writing.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It has been claimed that Fitzroy Maclean was one of the real life inspirations for Ian Fleming’s character of James Bond. According to his obituary in ‘The Independent’ “Fitzroy Maclean owes his place in history to the extraordinary 18 months he spent as Winston Churchill's special envoy to the Yugoslav leader Josip Tito in 1943-45. He sometimes expressed regret that, as with his hero Bonnie Prince Charlie, the historically significant portion of his life was compressed into 18 months at a comparatively young age. More dispassionate commentators would say that he packed an unbelievable amount into his 85 years.” Indeed, whilst this autobiography covers, roughly the 10 years between 1935-45 MacLean was to go on to serve in Government, briefly, and Parliament, at length, achieving much beyond these years for which he is famous.
First published in 1949, this autobiography is broken into 3 parts each of which would qualify in its own right as worthy of a book. Part One tells of the author’s years in the Soviet Union from 1937 to 1939. Having spent a couple of years as a diplomat at the Paris Embassy, a plumb posting, MacLean asked to go to the USSR, as no-one else wanted to go this was an easy assignment to get! Arriving in Moscow at the height of Stalin’s purges (and witness to one of the most famous trial – that of Bukharin and co – the story of which is told here with great insight) the young polyglot was determined to see as much of the country as possible and to get away from the cloying paranoia of Moscow where for a Soviet National to be seen talking, even in passing, to a foreigner could lead to torture, imprisonment or even death.
MacLean’s travel hobby was a pastime highly discouraged by the Soviet Government.
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